Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

New wellbeing programme in schools helping Pasifika parents and teachers

Earlier this year, Rowandale School trialled a new mental wellbeing programme called Le Toloa to help Pasifika parents and teachers cope with the stresses of everyday life. To mark the end of the programme, they held a community expo to raise awareness about available support services.

Principal Karl Vasau says the event helps to dispel myths about certain services.

“It’s not always that they’re there to either remove your children or take you to court – those real definite stereotypes, but they’re there to grow with you, to support you to get better, and there’s just so many out there that are willing to help,” he said.

The expo marks the conclusion of a mental wellbeing programme called Le Toloa, which helps Pasifika students, teachers and parents cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Le Toloa is the brainchild of  Leota Dr Lisi Petaia, Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann and Bella Bartley, who were contracted by the Ministry of Education to run a programme for Pasifika people in low decile South Auckland schools.

“As you know, our Pacific people are very vulnerable because of their socioeconomic status, and we know for a fact that poverty, unemployment, poor education, poor housing, all these things influence people’s mental health,” Petaia said.

Rowandale school was approached earlier this year to trial the programme.

“I thought it was a great opportunity, just come out of lockdown and all those different situations; I thought it would be a great thing for me, to grow myself as well, and things went from there,” Vasau said.

“On a personal level, I’ve experienced a little bit of down recently where I needed to take some time off. Doesn’t matter what you do, who you are or where you’re from, what resources you have in your life or how hard things are.”

Le Toloa participant and parent Pollyanna Paese says one learning from the programme was making sure that she also made time for herself.

“That was the biggest one,” she said.

“We need to ensure that we’re ok, that we’re strong enough in all aspects of our wellbeing so that we can ensure that everything else is running smoothly.”

Petaia says the key aim of the programme is encouraging Pasifika to not be afraid to seek help.

“One of the biggest problems Pacific people have is they don’t ask for help, for all sorts of reasons – either they’re ashamed, difficulties in language, they don’t have money to see GPs to get help…”

“So we want to make sure that when people are distressed, they know where to go.”

By Anauli Karima Fai’ai

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